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Eternal Masters' Initial Impact


Eternal Masters is still some time away from being legal on Magic Online, so speculation about the set’s impact continues to swirl. Last time I examined the new cards as they existed in the abstract. Today I want to take a closer look at the context of Pauper as it relates to Eternal Masters.

Pauper has been defined by mana, creatures, and removal for much of the past six months. The introduction of Peregrine Drake adds another wrinkle to this equation. Regardless of strength, Drake will reacquaint Pauper with combo. Unlike Elves and Izzet Blitz, this combo is less vulnerable to commonly included kill spells and it will require specific tools to answer.

For those unfamiliar, the combo is using Ghostly Flicker to target Peregrine Drake and Mnemonic Wall. This can create an arbitrarily large amount of mana to use with Rolling Thunder or it will trigger Sage's Row Denizen often enough to reduce an opposing library to zero cards. Unlike the now banned Cloud of Faeries, Drake untaps enough lands that cost reducers are not required to keep the engine moving. Because of this, additional elements can be added as defense of key pieces. Snap, Pulse of Murasa, and Reaping the Graves all protect vital creatures while Capsize can be used to stop Journey to Nowhere from keeping a creature under wraps. The multiple angles of attack also make it difficult to rely on Prismatic Strands to combat the win condition, so it falls on assailing the combo pieces.

So how does one go about attacking Ghostly Flicker combo? The best way to accomplish this is through exiling key components. Castigate is a card currently without a home but it can do some work against the combo deck. Similarly Carbonize takes Drake out and keeps it from hitting the graveyard. Unmake is a reasonable spell (although it does get ever so slightly weaker thanks to the presence of Wildfire Emissary) and its Devoid cousin Complete Disregard manages to hit every piece while also being easier to cast. If I had to pick one of these to see the most play it would be Complete Disregard. The 2b casting cost gives it flexibility while also managing to hit Spire Golem.

There are a few counterspells that exile and these may be key elements in keeping Drake from dominating. Liquify is not as strong as it was in the past since it can only target a single combo piece. Faerie Trickery, on the other hand, gets significantly better since it can stop any one of the elements. Deny Existence is a slow Essence Scatter but the exile clause makes it better against Peregrine Drake and Mnemonic Wall. Speed is key here as the combo has slowed down significantly, so the time needed to draw and cast a 3-mana answer may now exist.

The ability to exile cards from the graveyard also gains importance. While Bojuka Bog is a common inclusion and Relic of Progenitus already sees sideboard play, there is room for more targeted hate. Faerie Macabre is a fine answer out of the sideboard as it cannot be countered. Macabre also has the advantage of being able to mess with players who try to manipulate their own bin for Haunted Fengraf.

Suture Priest used to see play as a way to combat Ghostly Flicker combo. With Cloud of Faeries the number of cycles needed to produce a kill could be rather high. Peregrine Drake makes it far easier to generate the mana needed for a Fireball kill and as such the efficacy of Priest as a counter is lessened. This is not to say that Suture Priest should see no play, just that it probably will see more than it deserves.

The introduction of Nimble Mongoose and Wildfire Emissary will change the nature of removal in Pauper. Journey to Nowhere was gaining ground as one of the stronger ways to take out a creature since it could shut down everything from Young Wolf to Gurmag Angler to Ulamog's Crusher. With one of these creatures having Shroud and the other Protection from White, Journey to Nowhere takes a hit in its universal nature.

Lightning Bolt also falls short since it cannot take out either of these new beaters. For the first time in a few months it appears as if Black removal will outperform its Red counterpart. This is in part because Black removal works better in tandem, taking two spells to handle threats. Red, with various burn spells, is far better at point and click.

Take Chainer's Edict for example. In concert with a targeted removal spell Chainer's Edict can help to take down any creature. When paired with Tragic Slip these two cards are capable of taking out just about anything that can be produced. If I were to building a deck for the new environment, I would start by looking at Black removal because it can take out anything. Of course, in order to overload on removal you need to be able to draw spells. Thankfully Black has access to Sign in Blood, Read the Bones, and now Night's Whisper. It is starting to look more and more like Mono-Black Control and similar decks will be a good starting point in the new metagame.

Such a shift is nothing new. Mono-Black Control has long represented a solid baseline for Pauper. It has the tools to assail a hand or the battlefield, and, because of the nature of its answers, it happens to match up well with Pauper at large. The lifegain provided by Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Tendrils of Corruption should prove important in the early days of Eternal Masters as people may be overloading on aggressive strategies in an effort to race the potential combo decks. Mono-Black Control also retains the tools needed to fight current decks, so using it as level zero makes sense.

But why would I want to run plain old Mono-Black when I can go back to my personal favorite, Murasa Black. Now with Night's Whisper the deck can run a few more Green sources to make the splash that much easier. Green also gives the deck access to better removal for Artifacts out of the sideboard. The deck also gets a new tool in Wakedancer. The antecedent of this deck ran Scion Summoner but Wakedancer is more or less a strict upgrade. With access to Unearth a single Wakedancer can produce six points worth of power for2bb. That is a far better rate than Emperor Crocodile.

While I do not know exactly how Eternal Masters will change Pauper, I can almost guarantee we will see a combo deck rise early. Being prepared for this means knowing which removal spells will give you a leg up in those first league runs.

And then, once everything sorts itself out, it’ll be time to attack the new metagame.

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